From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]
These US Raids In Iraq Look Real, But They Aren’t
(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL)
By Yochi J. Dreazen / Mar 22, 2007
NEAR TIKRIT, Iraq — In one of the oddest raids of the war in Iraq, a
convoy of U.S. Humvees rolled to a stop outside a small printing plant
here one afternoon late last month. Twenty U.S. soldiers in dark
goggles moved through the two-story building with assault rifles,
forcing the plant’s workers against an outside wall for questioning,
then conducting a room-by-room search.
Because an office door was locked, the soldiers radioed Army Capt. Dan
Cederman, who was leading the raid, to ask whether they should knock
it down. “I told them that would kind of defeat the purpose,” Capt.
Cederman recalls. “We’d have just had to come back out the next day to
The strike, after all, wasn’t meant to find insurgents or weapons. Its
real purpose was to covertly measure the progress of U.S.-financed
renovations to the company’s offices.
The U.S. is spending tens of millions of dollars to reopen state-run
factories that have been shut down since the 2003 invasion and to
create new businesses. Military civil-affairs teams throughout the
country are helping the Iraqi companies draft business plans and
modernize their equipment. And many businesses are back in operation,
providing much-needed jobs and boosting the fragile Iraqi economy.
Officials hope they will also keep otherwise idle men from joining the
But given the hostility toward the U.S., officials aren’t advertising
their role. “The only way things will work is if the U.S. contribution
is totally invisible,” says Maj. Christina Nagy, a civil-affairs
officer from the 82nd Airborne Division. “I have people with higher
ranks than me always wanting to have a ribbon cutting. I just listen
and think, ‘Sure, if you want the companies to get immediately shot or
The raids are the brainchild of Capt. Cederman, an 82nd Airborne
reservist from upstate New York who studied robotic engineering in
college and works in Target Corp.’s logistics department when he isn’t
deployed overseas. This is his second tour in Iraq, and many of the
contractors he worked with during his first tour in 2003 have since
been killed by insurgents, he says.
The idea for the raids sprang from another contorted economic revival
scheme launched when Capt. Cederman and Maj. Nagy arrived here last
year and found themselves charged with reopening a vocational school
damaged by an errant U.S. bomb amid the 2003 invasion.
The Iraqi side of the project was led by a mechanical engineer named
Dr. Noori, a stocky fellow with buzz-cut hair who had taught at the
school in the years before the war and is running it now. Dr. Noori,
who brings his teenage son to meetings on the massive American
military base here, asked that his full name not be used for safety
The U.S. allocated nearly $1 million to renovate the school and buy
new furniture and machines. But the military balked at providing funds
for salaries and other operating expenses.
Last summer, Dr. Noori approached the Americans with a creative
alternative. He was planning to offer courses in fashion design and
tailoring and asked the Americans to help him establish a small
textile factory where students from the vocational school could help
design and manufacture items for sale. A portion of the profit from
the clothes would then be used to offset the costs of running the
school, he said.
The Americans liked the idea and agreed to give Dr. Noori more than
$300,000 to renovate an abandoned building and purchase new equipment
and supplies, the U.S. officers say.
With the work well under way last fall, Dr. Noori asked Capt. Cederman
to see the renovations for himself, both men say. But the Iraqi
stressed the importance of keeping the U.S. role secret. “Can you come
in without anyone seeing you come in?” Dr. Noori remembers asking.
That didn’t seem possible. Another option: Hide in plain sight. “I
thought, ‘Why don’t we just raid the place?'” Capt. Cederman recalls.
Dr. Noori agreed to that, asking only that the U.S. forces make sure
that no one was hurt during the sweep and that no damage was done to
The U.S. raid took place last September. Dr. Noori, who had been
alerted to the timing, stayed home the day of the strike to prevent
his workers from finding out that he knew many of the soldiers.
The American soldiers took all the employees into one room and told
them they were looking for a specific Iraqi suspected of ties to the
insurgency. During the mock interrogations, a second team of soldiers
quietly made its way through the plant to take photographs and check
the pace and quality of renovations.
Dr. Noori says several workers told him after the raid how frightened
they had been. That convinced him that it had come off as authentic.
The soldiers, meanwhile, say they were able to verify that the U.S.
money had been used appropriately.
The ruse worked so well that Capt. Cederman decided to carry out a
similar raid last month at the printing plant here that had been fixed
up with U.S. funds.
The Iraqi assistant director of the plant requested the strike,
telling the Americans it would help persuade the insurgents to leave
him and his workers alone, Capt. Cederman says. The company prints
recruiting posters for the Iraqi military and police, as well as an
independent daily newspaper.
U.S. forces had spent several days preparing for the raid, studying
satellite photographs of the factory grounds and floor plans of the
interior of the building.
The strike began shortly after 1 p.m. on Feb. 22. The security guard
recognized Capt. Cederman’s Humvees as the vehicles drove into the
compound, and came over to greet the troops. The soldiers responded by
ordering him to put his hands in the air and then lie flat on the
ground, participants in the raid say.
“He kept saying, ‘Welcome, welcome,'” Master Sgt. John Craig recalls.
“I was like, ‘Get the f- down on the floor.’ It had to look real.”
After the guard was disarmed and searched, the soldiers ordered the
four workers who were in the building to come out and line up against
an outside wall.
Speaking through a female translator dressed in military fatigues,
Capt. Cederman and his soldiers told the workers that they were
looking for an insurgent rumored to be in the plant.
The soldiers took each worker’s ID card and compared it to a fake
photo sheet they had brought along. A second team of U.S. soldiers had
made its way through each office to verify that the work in the U.S.-
funded contract had been completed. The raid lasted about 45 minutes.
Capt. Cederman says U.S. forces are likely to employ similar methods
in coming weeks to check on other projects the U.S. is paying for.
In recent days, meanwhile, U.S. forces staged a raid to solve a
nettlesome — and potentially life-threatening — problem in the
nearby city of Bayji.
An Iraqi who worked as a translator for U.S. forces there was getting
death threats from insurgents and asked the U.S. for help. The
Americans responded by raiding his house, publicly arresting him, and
holding him in jail for two days.
“A lot of people there now think he’s a bad guy,” Capt. Cederman says.
“It bought him a lot of street cred.”